MANUAL v DCT SHIFTING TIMES
AFRICA TWIN Honda’s off-road focused Dual Clutch Transmission is a world first, but can it really be better than a manual gearbox in conditions like this?
Big adventure bikes work surprisingly well when there is grip, but take that grip away and managing these heavyweights quickly becomes hard work, making this a genuine test for the reborn Africa Twin itself, in addition to answering the question of which is best – DCT or manual?
Starting on the manual bike I was quickly able to get up to speed thanks to the well balanced chassis and smooth, linear power delivery. Having minimal grip at the rear is something you can manage as a rider, but minimal front end grip, which means the front is washing out and having difficulty tracking a straight line, is a bigger challenge. Despite this, stood up on the pegs, one finger feathering the light clutch, it was easy to stay in
control of the big Africa Twin despite the conditions.
Uphill or downhill it was possible to find traction, but I had to call on my previous trials riding experience in terms of body position, throttle and clutch control to make the bike do what I intended. For anything technical I found myself riding with revs dialled in whilst riding/slipping the clutch to ensure I had the connection I wanted between throttle and rear wheel – a necessity in these conditions.
After an hour or so on the manual Honda I swapped to the DCT version. With the softer throttle map selected within the sport option menu to suit the conditions and the ‘Gravel’ button activated – a system that uses a gyro to determine up and downhill gradients to ensure the bike remains in the correct gear – it would theoretically give the right drive for climbs and a suitable amount of engine braking for descents.
Given the technical nature of the riding caused by the poor conditions, the initial throttle delay between twisting the grip and the power being delivered to the rear wheel was apparent. But the human body is a clever thing and within minutes of riding I was able to calibrate my own brain and the delay became a significantly smaller issue.
One you get dialled in, the throttle connection is impressive. Full lock off-camber turns can be achieved comfortably and the bike has the huge advantage that it cannot be stalled. No matter what you do the engine won’t